Epic poem honoring Sultan Mehmet II found in Italian library
Ankara Social Sciences University academic Filiz Barın Akman and academic-writer Beyazıt Akman have discovered an epic poem in Latin with approximately 5,000 lines written by an Italian poet in honor of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, known as Mehmed the Conqueror, during the Renaissance era.
The work, titled “Turkish emperor Mehmet’s life and conquests,” (Amyris, de vita et gestis Mahometi Turcorum imperatoris) was written by poet and historian Gian Mario Filelfo in 1475.
The Akman couple told the state-run Anadolu Agency about the discovery, features and current studies of the work, which has not been translated into Turkish or English until now and has not been the subject of any academic review.
Beyazıt Akman stated that they were working with his wife, Filiz Barın Akman, on the perception of Turks and Islam in the west, adding, “We were constantly trying to find new resources. In our research, we have seen several references to this work and the author, but we have never seen the work. Citations to this work were also citing through citation. We have not encountered a study that reads and interprets the work from beginning to end.”
He said that they had a copy of the work printed in Italy in 1978 and underlined that they would try to reach the original Latin manuscript from the Bibliotheque de Geneve library in Geneva, Switzerland.
Noting that the work would be translated first, Beyazıt Akman said: “Until now, it should have been translated into many languages and not just Turkish and should have been the subject of many studies. Can you imagine that an Italian wrote a work of 5,000 lines on Sultan Mehmet in the 15th century but was not translated into any language? They kept it like a secret. Had this work been written about a Christian emperor instead of a Muslim Turkish ruler, I am sure it would have been mentioned among classical epics such as Homer’s ‘Iliad’ or Virgil’s ‘Aeneid.’ They imprisoned it in the archives of their libraries. There is no doubt that orientalist historiography has a great influence on the fact that the work has not been known to this extent until now.”
“We first want to translate this work into Turkish and English and then analyze it. I don’t know why it hasn’t attracted anyone’s attention for five centuries. Undoubtedly, this work is no different from Bellini’s portrait of Fatih. What one did with the art of painting, the other did with literature. It is of great importance that the work is presented to our own people and to the access of other cultures with up-to-date translations. With this study, we aim to fill this gap,” he added.
Speaking about the story of the writing of the work, which consists of four parts, Filiz Barın Akman said: “Othman Lillo Ferducci of Ancona, the brother-in-law of a Venetian merchant residing in Çanakkale, was among the prisoners taken when Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul. The merchant sent a letter to the Sultan, asking for his relative to be released. Fatih released the prisoner of war without demanding any ransom. Influenced by this gentlemanly act of Mehmet, the Italian merchant added the name Osman, the founder of the Turkish state, to his name as an indication of this closeness. His friend, the Renaissance poet, asked Filelfo, who was born in Pera in 1426, to write an epic poem about Mehmet the Conqueror, describing his achievements and conquests. His aim was to thank the Sultan and express his gratitude to him.”
Noting that the Turkish and English translations of the work from the Latin original will be presented to readers, accompanied by detailed literary readings and explanations of the historical context, Filiz Barın Akman stated that they were aiming to have the book on the shelves in a few months.